Obamacare's State Sites Are Doing Better Than the Federal Site

| Tue Oct. 15, 2013 12:40 PM EDT

With all the (increasingly) bad news we've been hearing about the Obamacare website, someone asked me yesterday if it was only the federal site that was a disaster or if the state sites were also in bad shape. As far as I know, the answer is that most of the state sites have some problems here and there, but are basically working OK and getting better. Today, in an interview at WonkBlog, Robert Laszewski, the president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, confirms this:

How are the state exchanges functioning?

They’re not seeing anything like the federal problems. I should say that if you’ve seen one state you’ve seen one state. But to generalize, the vast majority of states really did a good job testing. Some of them didn’t open up with everything. Now, enrollment is not great, but that’s because every one of them had real glitches. And in the states, those actually were glitches — not a train wreck. So we still don’t have an accurate picture of how many people will sign up. I think if you look at some of the states that opened fairly smoothly, like Maryland or Connecticut or Kentucky, they all had problems but in two weeks we’ll have a better sense of how they’re running. Enrollments are smaller than they need to be right now but the federal publicity is hurting them. The guy in Maryland doesn’t know he’s not on a federal exchange.

I'm not trying to downplay the problems with the federal website, which are certainly starting to look even worse than we thought at first, but this is worth knowing. The exchange software isn't an impossible problem to solve, since apparently 14 states have managed to meet the deadline with nothing more than a rocky start.

In the meantime, I assume that telephones are still working and it's possible to sign up for Obamacare over the phone if you live in a state that's on the federal exchange and therefore has an unusable website.